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As Long as We Remember...

July 11, 2012

New Engines of Growth Part 1

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The National Governors Association recently released a new report on the role that community arts, culture, and design play in job creation and economic growth.


The remarkably creative and thoughtful report, New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design, was prepared by the group’s Center for Best Practices, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.


The 52-page report itself is an eye-catching and well-designed piece of artwork in its layout and design.


However, even more amazing is that, page-by-page, the report presents a compelling and persuasive case for encouraging community arts and cultural programs, businesses, shops and industry to create economy and jobs – in a manner surprisingly devoid of mind-numbing public policy wonk-speak.


The executive summary of the report states, in part: “With concerns over job creation and business growth holding a prominent – and persistent – position on policy agendas today, governors are increasingly calling on state agencies to support economic growth.


“It’s not just economic and workforce development agencies that governors want on the case. Some governors are including state arts agencies in this all-hands-on-deck approach and are putting in place policies and programs using arts, culture, and design as a means to enhance economic growth.”


The summary explains: “This report focuses on the role that arts, culture, and design can play in assisting states as they seek to create jobs and boost their economies in the short run and transition to an innovation-based economy in the long run.


“In particular, arts, culture, and design can assist states with economic growth because they can:


1. Provide a fast-growth, dynamic industry cluster;

2. Help mature industries become more competitive;

3. Provide the critical ingredients for innovative places;

4. Catalyze community revitalization; and

5. Deliver a better-prepared workforce.”


The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities also notes: “The New Engines of Growth” focuses the arts, culture and design potential role in governors’ policies to create jobs and boost their economies in the short run and transition to an innovation-based economy in the long run…


“The report offers examples and data on the arts as an economic engine and provides a broader context for other dynamic sectors such as cultural heritage tourism, which leverages cultural and historic resources as assets for creating livable and sustainable communities…”


The governors' study quantified and qualified the compelling call for action. “Since the recession began in 2007, the United States has undergone a major economic contraction, with the loss of over 7 million jobs and a 23-percent drop in new business creation…”


The New Engines of Growth goes on to observe: “The creative economy does not consist only of artists. It includes a broad cluster of creative activities – arts, culture, design, entertainment, publishing, fashion, and other components. Existing economic development strategies can be used to focus on creative clusters within a state for competitive advantage. State leaders can:


Identify creative enterprises – both commercial and nonprofit – in analyses of state industry clusters;


Include creative enterprises and arts, design, and cultural developmentexperts in economic task forces, meetings, and other leadership activities;


Examine eligibility criteria for state assistance (incentives, training, technical assistance) to make sure that creative enterprises, artists, arts, and cultural organizations are eligible to participate;


Integrate entrepreneurial curriculum modules into art and design programs and into other education programs in community colleges and four-year institutions; and


Pilot small business development center training courses for artists and entrepreneurs in creative fields.


The National Governors Association report brought to mind some observations and musings on the art of economic development from quite a number of years ago, by a colleague, Kevin Griffis, in a commentary, “The Creative Revolution.” He wrote for “Creative Loafing Atlanta,” about the work of Richard Florida, “The Rise of the Creative Class.”


Mr. Griffis, noted: “If local governments don't do more to attract young, smart people and rethink the way they try to attract business, the region will be left behind by cities that can…”


On August 21, 2002, Mr. Griffis noted: “In (Florida’s) book, which is now in its fifth printing, Florida identifies a 38 million-strong workforce that has emerged with the advent of the age of the knowledge worker. He then prescribes for cities what they need to do to attract these creatives and explains why an area's future economic development depends on creating the right environment for them.”


In the 10 years or so since, one may only imagine that the young, technologically savvy members of 20- and 30-something year olds have only grown in numbers.


Today, creating a sense of place where economic development and job creation may take place for the millennials goes well beyond facilitating Wi-Fi availability. As Mr. Griffis wrote 10-years ago, “Florida calls on cities to jettison the traditional trappings of economic growth – the tax incentives, stadiums, and convention centers.


“Knowledge-based companies and their workers don't care about them,” he says. “To the Intels of the world, the people who make up a community are the most important commodity, because what goes on between their employees' ears plays such a strong (and unprecedented) role in determining the overall health of the firm…”


Furthermore, “The premise is disarmingly simple… Develop cities where smart people want to live. To Florida and his focus groups, that means fostering a strong arts scene, giving hipster computer programmers a happening nightlife, developing more green space and promoting tolerance…”


Increasingly, baby-boomers, to the youngest generation just now reaching adulthood, are searching the local community for more quality of life.


This is not only translating into an active interest in community arts and cultural centers, but this search for quality of life is starting to have pronounced economic impact and be reflected in government sector support for public-private partnerships.


 . . . . .I’m just saying. . . . .

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